Once scorned, comic books are considered an art form today, and the garish covers and lurid stories that led to panics in the 1950s are now worth big money to collectors. But many classic comics are available, often for free and usually complete, cover to cover, as CBR files in online comic book archives. CBR files have a longer name, but all you really need to know is they're complete comic books in one file. And all you need to read them is an Internet connection and a comic book reader, a tool that can open and display CBR files. CBR Reader is such a tool. It's free. It not only opens and displays CBR files but also converts and saves them as JPEG, GIF, PNG, or BMP image files.
Browsing online comic book archives, you'll see lots of covers in every genre: action, horror, science fiction, romance, classics -- all colorful and elaborate. If you're expecting similar excitement from CBR Reader's user interface, don't. It's almost a plain blank window, except for an empty, split sidebar on the left, and it has but three menu entries: File, View, and Help, and the Help file is just an About dialog with a Web link. The View menu has useful navigation controls like Zoom, Up and Down, and Next Page. The File Menu offered three choices: Open, Save As, and Exit. But what could be simpler? And simple is just the thing since CBR Reader has but one job, even if it is a good one.
We tried a CBR file in our archive, and CBR Reader opened it quickly -- much more quickly than some prehistoric readers (although the computers are quicker now, too). The small, upper section of the sidebar is a file list display; it showed the single CBR file we'd loaded, while the lower part showed each page of our comic book. Selected pages appeared in the main window. Right-clicking the image opened the navigation menu; we could also zoom with our scroll wheel. Resolution is excellent; navigation crisp. All that remains is to spend hours reading the comic books we downloaded!